ABSTRACT

This study investigated the identity of 2 lepocreadiid digenean species belonging in the genus Opechona Looss, 1907 that infect littoral fishes of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Opechona chloroscombriNahhas and Cable, 1964, a species previously known only from the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, is reported herein from the Atlantic bumper, Chloroscombrus chrysurus (L.), in the northern Gulf of Mexico. A second species infects the gulf butterfish, Peprilus burti Fowler, and the American harvestfish, Peprilus paru (L.), and it is described as a new species that occurs in coastal waters of the north-central and northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Metacercariae infecting the mesoglea of pelagic jellyfishes (Bougainvillia carolinensis [McCady], Chrysaora quinquecirrha [Desor], and Stomolophus meleagris Agassiz) and pelagic comb jellies (Mnemiopsis leidyi Agassiz and Beroe ovata Bruguière) were collected that resemble the new species but require further study to identify. Newly generated sequence fragments (28S rDNA) from both species of Opechona plus 2 other lepocreadiids collected during the study were aligned with publicly available sequences from 18 other lepocreadiids, 6 species of Aephnidiogenidae Yamaguti, 1934, and 2 species of Gorgocephalidae Manter, 1966. The alignment was subjected to Bayesian inference analysis rooted using a gorgocephalid. The resulting tree estimated the positions of both Opechona spp. as being unresolved within a group of taxa that included all available species of Opechona plus available species from the morphologically similar genera ProdistomumLinton, 1910, Preptetos Pritchard, 1960, and Clavogalea Bray, 1985. Although relatively similar in morphology, the 2 studied species of Opechona were surprisingly not closely related. Opechona cablei (Stunkard, 1980) Bray and Gibson, 1990 is herein considered to be a junior synonym of Opechona pyriformis (Linton, 1900) Bray and Gibson, 1990.

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